What Is a Copywriter?

hands of copywriter typing on laptop at desk

If you have ever watched a funny commercial or heard a catchy radio jingle and thought: “I could write that!” then copywriting might be a good career for you. What is a copywriting job like? Quite simply, professionals in this field write copy for any type of content intended to sell a product or service.

What Is a Copywriter?

In years past, copywriters most often worked on direct mail campaigns, print advertisements in newspapers and magazines, flyers, billboards and similar printed materials. These days, however, print advertisements have taken a backseat to digital marketing. You are just as likely to find a copywriter hard at work composing an email blast as you are to find one typing up a sales brochure.

Indeed, sales copy can take many forms, including the following:

  • Static pages and blogs on websites
  • Search engine and social media ads
  • Organic posts on social media
  • TV and radio commercials
  • E-newsletters and email marketing
  • Product descriptions
  • Video scripts
  • eBooks

Note that not all copy is overly “salesy." A large portion of sales copy is primarily informational or entertaining, with a subtle push to raise brand awareness or direct readers to the company’s products or services. By making the bulk of a piece educational or entertaining, a copywriter can hold the reader’s attention and encourage the reader to form an emotional connection to the brand.

For instance, consider Alice, a fictitious copywriter who has been hired to write a blog for a veterinary clinic. Alice knows that responsible pet parents are often preoccupied with their animals’ health and well-being, and that they frequently search for actionable information they can use to help their animals enjoy a better quality of life. She also knows that her client wants to increase appointments for their pet behavioral training service.

So Alice writes a blog titled “10 Signs Your Dog Is Bored," which includes a discussion of the destructive behaviors that dogs might engage in when they get bored. The bulk of the piece is informational, designed to help puppy parents take better care of their animals.

Toward the end of the blog, Alice includes a call to action (CTA) that informs readers that the vet clinic offers behavioral training that can help bored dogs curb their destructive behaviors. It invites readers to book an appointment with the dog trainer. This blog works because it keeps readers engaged throughout the copy, while offering the client’s services as an effective solution to their problems.

Copywriting can be a fun career because it allows professionals to exercise their creativity. However, copywriters must always keep their client’s preferences and requirements in mind, and they must work within those boundaries. It is also important for a copywriter to ensure that the content fits the client’s brand voice and meets the general expectations for the client’s industry.

What Does a Copywriter’s Typical Day Look Like?

It may surprise you to learn that many of a copywriter’s daily responsibilities don’t always involve writing copy. At a smaller marketing agency, for example, a copywriter may take on project management duties. He or she may also edit the writing of coworkers.

The daily responsibilities of a copywriter will vary depending on the employer, but may include any of the following:

  • Meeting with new and current clients to discuss marketing objectives and proposed marketing concepts
  • Developing an overall marketing campaign strategy and planning advertising initiatives across multiple platforms
  • Collaborating with other professionals, such as videographers, graphic designers and web designers
  • Conducting topic research on the client’s industry, services and products
  • Writing copy according to client specifications and market research
  • Receiving feedback on completed work and making revisions accordingly
  • Attending team and departmental meetings to review ongoing and upcoming projects
  • Managing multiple projects simultaneously, ensuring that all deadlines are met

Today, much of a copywriter’s work involves SEO—search engine optimization. SEO is a set of technical and content techniques designed to improve a company’s webpage rankings in search engines. The higher a website is listed in the search engine results page (SERP), the more traffic it will receive and, as a result, the more customers the company will likely attract. 

It is considered a requirement for modern copywriters to have a solid understanding of SEO, which includes the natural incorporation of keywords and phrases. Content that incorporates the keywords that users frequently type into search engines will rank higher in SERPs. Sometimes copywriters will do their own keyword research using various SEO tools, while in other cases, they are provided with keyword research to use as they write.

Can Copywriters Specialize?

Many copywriters are generalists. That is, they are capable of adapting to a wide range of industries and types of clients. One day, they might write new website pages for a plumbing company, while the next day they might work on a video script for a private investigation firm.

However, copywriters can and do specialize. Some of the following industries are areas where a copywriter might excel:

  • Law
  • Healthcare
  • Medical science
  • Education
  • Home improvement
  • Outdoor recreation
  • Pets and veterinary science

Some marketing firms cater exclusively to certain industries, particularly healthcare and law, while others will take on virtually any type of client. Likewise, some marketing firms are strictly B2B (“business to business”—marketing messages from one business to another) and others are B2C (“business to consumer”—marketing messages that appeal directly to consumers).

Generally, copywriters become specialists in a certain industry simply by gaining a great deal of work experience in that area. For example, our fictitious copywriter Alice might primarily handle law-related accounts at her marketing firm. Over time, she will acquire a great deal of expertise in the law field and may later decide to accept a position at a marketing firm that exclusively serves law practices. Alternatively, she might become the in-house copywriter for a large law firm.

How To Become a Copywriter

After exploring the answer to the question “What is a copywriter?” you may be curious about how to become one. If you are still in high school, consider making an appointment with your school counselor to discuss your career goals and review your academic progress.

Talk to your counselor about adding relevant courses to your schedule, such as classes in journalism or creative writing, which will help you polish your writing skills. In addition, consider taking classes in web design, animation or computer programming, as these will enable you to develop complementary skill sets that are prized by marketing agencies. Look for relevant afterschool opportunities too, such as a video production club.

Employers prefer to hire copywriters with a four-year degree. When it’s time for you to apply to college, you have a number of degree options. There is no one-size-fits-all degree for aspiring copywriters but any of the following degrees would be a good fit:

  • New media
  • English or journalism
  • Communications
  • Marketing

In addition to your major, consider declaring a minor. It can be helpful for copywriters to have particular expertise in a certain area, such as law or medical science. Earning a minor can help prove your ability to work on copy for clients in a particular industry.

It is not generally necessary to earn a master’s degree; you can land your first copywriting job with just a bachelor’s. However, you may wish to go back to school later to improve your qualifications. Your employer may offer tuition reimbursement for employees who are pursuing master’s degrees.

There are no specific certification requirements for copywriters. However, you may wish to join an organization for professional writers. Membership in a professional association can bolster your resume and provide opportunities for networking, finding jobs and refining your skills. Examples of such organizations include the following:

  • Association of National Advertisers
  • American Association of Advertising Agencies
  • National Association of Independent Writers & Editors
  • American Marketing Association

What Is a New Media Degree?

As previously mentioned, a new media degree is one possible stepping stone on the path to becoming a copywriter. So what exactly is new media? It does not refer to a specific medium of communication; rather, new media is any type of communication that is accessible through digital platforms.

New media can include elements of old media, such as printed newspapers that are digitized and accessible on a website. It can also be completely new media, such as a streaming app or email. A new media degree may examine any of these.

The specific curriculum will vary from one school to the next. In general, however, a student earning a new media degree can expect to explore the following:

  • The fundamentals of communication skills, including intercultural, mass, small group and interpersonal communication
  • The principles of digital video production and its use in conveying information
  • The way digital media may be used to target various audiences
  • The elements of broadcasting and podcasting, including preproduction, production and postproduction phases

Students will emerge from this degree program with a solid framework of competencies that will enable them to pursue a variety of roles in the media industry, including copywriting.

Is There a Demand for Copywriters?

The primary entity that tracks job growth rates is the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and the BLS does not offer specific statistics on copywriters. However, the BLS does track the job growth rate of advertising, promotions and marketing managers, which is expected to be a healthy six percent through 2029. This is faster than the average for all professions, and it means that about 18,800 jobs in this niche are expected to be added to the U.S. economy during this time.1

In general, there is more robust growth in new media than in print advertisement jobs, owing to the continued increase in popularity among digital media. Note that although the BLS job growth statistics apply to marketing managers, many copywriters act as de facto marketing managers at smaller firms or their own sole proprietorships. Furthermore, after acquiring a number of years of work experience as a copywriter, many professionals are promoted to this sort of managerial role.

Copywriters with digital media skills are expected to be the most competitive in the job marketplace. Marketing agencies and marketing departments in larger corporations often prefer to hire copywriters who also understand the basics of digital video production, audiovisual presentation, podcasting, social media and similar media.

Tips for Landing Your First Copywriting Job

Internships are always helpful for aspiring professionals, as they not only provide opportunities for developing in-demand skills, but also allow students to build professional connections. Many copywriting jobs, even entry-level openings, request that applicants have at least some experience. For a soon-to-be or recent graduate, internships are often the best way to acquire that crucial experience.

Beyond exploring internship opportunities, there are other ways of landing your first copywriting job after graduation. Every copywriting job applicant is expected to have a portfolio of polished writing samples, which you can begin building in college and during an internship. You can also write pieces specifically for your portfolio, even if they aren’t required for a class or work assignment.

It is ideal for your professional portfolio to have a diverse mix of clips that reflect your versatility as a writer. For example, you may wish to include a few blogs, a video script, an e-newsletter and some organic social media posts.

Throughout your career, you will want to periodically revisit your portfolio and add new pieces. Always ensure your portfolio reflects your best possible work.

Deciding Whether to Become a Freelance Copywriter

Many copywriters are freelancers. This means they have their own copywriting business, typically structured as a sole proprietorship with no employees. As a freelancer, you would have the freedom to choose which clients you want to work with, set your own hours and work from your home office.

The freedom of freelancing appeals to many copywriters. However, before you decide to become a freelancer, know that there are a few drawbacks. You will be responsible for deducting your own taxes from your wages (and self-employed individuals pay additional taxes), as well as arranging your own healthcare coverage.

You will also need to interact more frequently with clients and potential clients, and deal with the administrative matters of running a business, such as keeping records. However, you’ll have greater flexibility in your day-to-day life and with a home office, you could potentially live anywhere you wish.

If you’re passionate about the written word and curious about interactive media, you can turn your passion into purpose by earning a new media degree at Grand Canyon University. The Bachelor of Arts in Communications with an Emphasis in Broadcasting and New Media empowers students to develop new media competencies that employers are looking for in job candidates. Click on Request Info at the top of your screen to begin exploring your future at GCU.

1Retrieved from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers in May 2021.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.